Tuesday, May 30, 2017

spring reading list

Nine entries this quarter, finally getting back into my reading habit...

Red Rising by Pierce Brown – the first book of a trilogy that takes place on Mars. Humans have successfully spread to the solar system's other planets and moons, terraforming them to sustain human life and creating a complex society via a strict caste system coded by color. Reds are the lowest of the low spending their whole lives living beneath the surface of Mars mining the Helium3 that fuels the terraforming and the spaceships, believing the propaganda that they are sacrificing their lives so that humanity can escape the miserable ruined planet earth, and unaware that there is a thriving planet and society on the surface above them. They are, in essence, slaves unaware of their slavery while they fuel humanity. They marry young, they die young. Golds, cold blooded power hungry killers, are the ruling class. Vain and arrogant they consider the other colors as less than human. Certainly less than them. They are bred for power, physical and intellectual. Darrow, a 16 year old Red 'helldiver', the most dangerous job of mining, and his wife are arrested when she stumbles on a tunnel that takes her to an enclosed forest and they see the sky for the first time. He is whipped, she is hanged, he is hanged but rescued and recruited by the Sons of Ares, the underground resistance group. His mission, to rise up high enough in the Gold hierarchy to have enough power to break the system but in order for him to do that he must first be made into a Gold, something that requires remaking his body from the inside out. That accomplished, he passes the entrance test to gain admittance to the Institute, a school for only the best and the brightest of Gold children. Now he must not only survive the year long Institute, but finish high enough to win the powerful and connected sponsorship necessary to rise in the system. It's a good story, fast paced, told in the first person present. It captured my attention and I've been spending a lot more time reading. The rain has been helpful in that respect. I finished it, put it down, and went immediately to the library to get the second book.

Golden Son by Pierce Brown – Darrow, now known as the Reaper, after winning the Institute and another year at the Academy is poised to win the final battle there when he is lured into a trap and he and his crew barely escape with their lives. His sponsor, the ArchGovernor of Mars, Augustus, is sorely disappointed and Darrow loses favor since he failed to kill the son of the family with which he has a blood feud that killed Augustus's favored son. Political intrigue also had a hand in the Reaper's sidelining until he comes up with a daring plan to usurp the power of the Sovereign who rules all the planets and moons. Darrow/Reaper's plan is to bring it all down to create a new more egalitarian society for all the colors but only a very few Golds and the Sons of Ares are in on the ultimate goal. All seems going to plan and victory is in sight until he is betrayed and the Golds and all the other colors find out he is really a lowly Red.

Morning Star by Pierce Brown – With many of Darrow's supporters murdered and Darrow himself imprisoned in a box and the rest of the worlds thinking he is dead because of his supposed execution, all seems lost while the Society's Armada continues to fight the uprising, which without the Reaper and Ares, also murdered, is floundering. In the meantime, Darrow's right hand man and best friend, Sevro, a Gold, now Ares himself, does not believe he is dead and is carrying on the fight, taking control of the resistance. It takes a year but Sevro finally discovers Darrow's fate and they rescue him from his captor, the new ArchGovernor of Mars, and desperate plans are laid to continue the fight and gain more supporters, most particularly the Moon Lords of Jupiter and the Obsidians of Mars. They are given unexpected aid when they hatch a plan to kidnap a very rich and influential Silver who turns out to be one of the original founders of the Sons of Ares. After a battle with the Society's Sword Armada, which they defeat and capture those ships that were not destroyed, Darrow, Sevro, and Mustang hatch a daring plan to infiltrate the inner sanctum of the Sovereign on Luna and put an end to the war and create a society that allows a person's talents to determine their fate rather than their color caste.

There is so much in these books I didn't tell, for instance who Mustang is, who the Obsidians are, but I was trying to keep it all fairly short. It's a good story, moves quickly, and I finished all three books in the time it has taken me lately to read just one.

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden - a supernatural tale written as if it were a Russian Fairy Tale, or rather, the basis for a Russian Fairy Tale except the tale is one of many told at the ovenside of an outlying boyar's house at the edge of the wilderness in 16th century Rus'. Vasya was born to a beloved wife, herself the daughter of the mysterious girl who rode into Moscow on a horse and charmed the grand prince into marriage, who died soon after childbirth. Vasya is a wild spirit and when she is 7, her father decides to remarry in an effort to tame Vasya and groom her for a woman's life as a wife. Pyotr is manipulated into taking the current grand prince of Moscow's mad sister to wife in return for a high born marriage for his other daughter. Soon after Anna, a devout Christian, arrives the old priest in the village dies and a young charismatic priest is sent to take his place. Vasya and the village still honor the old spirits and the village is prosperous until the new priest arrives and instills fear in the villagers and they turn away from the nature spirits and things start going bad. Vasya's wildness and power are unsettling to the villagers and the priest is determined to bring her to God. With the villagers turning away from the protective nature spirits, an evil spirit that has been bound for ages is about to get free and it is up to Vasya with help from the Winter King, also known as Death, to save everyone. It's a good story and I really enjoyed this one.

The Girl Before by J. P. Delaney – a murder mystery of sorts, two stories are told simultaneously...Emma then and Jane now...of two young women living in a house built by an architect who specializes in austere but beautiful buildings with the aim to change the occupants that comes with a long list of rules and requirements. It's a story of obsessive love and control as both women engage in an affair with the architect. Then Emma dies under questionable circumstances in the house and now Jane tries to discover the truth about Emma's death discovering along the way the obsessive nature of her lover and trying to determine whether or not she is in danger. It's a good story that kept me engaged. Either that or I've finally gotten back into reading as this is the 5th book in a row that it only took me a week to read.

The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena - Anne and Marco, parents of a 6 month old, have an 'adults only' dinner engagement with their neighbors with whom they share a wall and due to a family emergency the sitter cancels at the last minute. Anne wants to stay home but Marco convinces her to leave Cora, the baby, at home, they will take the baby monitor with them and take turns checking on her every half hour. They return home sometime after 1 AM to find the front door ajar and the baby missing. Marco was the last to check on her at 12:30 and claims she was sleeping peacefully. The police are called and then begins the investigation into the abduction. Anne, who is suffering from postpartum depression, fears she has killed her baby who has been difficult, crying and hard to soothe, when she went home for Cora's 11 o'clock feeding because she can't remember everything that happened and has a history of a violent episode during a blackout when she was in school and that Marco got rid of the body to cover for her. It is gradually revealed that Marco kidnapped Cora with the help from an accomplice for the ransom he knew his in-laws would pay in order to rescue his business from financial disaster. Unknown to Marco, his father-in-law, Anne's step-father, who despises Marco, set the whole thing up in an attempt to discredit Marco and steal $5 million from his wife and run off with his girlfriend who happens to be the neighbor Cynthia and has had Cora the whole time. Anne and Marco get the baby back. That's the nuts and bolts of it though there is more to the story written in third person present but I found the author's writing style tiresome after a while and when I got to the last page, I was like, what?!

Ape House by Sara Gruen – from the author of Water For Elephants. Isabel is a scientist at the Great Ape Language Lab with her also scientist fiance Peter. John, a reporter who has been working on a story about language acquisition in apes, and his colleague Cat were sent by the paper they work for to visit the language lab and while John was allowed to interact with the bonobos, Cat was not since she was recovering from a cold. Later that day when everyone was supposed to be out of the facility for the night, there is a massive explosion that nearly kills Isabel. The bonobos survive and are promptly sold by the university that underwrote the language lab when the president's house was vandalized and his family threatened at the same time. As Isabel recovers she is frantic to find out what happened to the 7 apes she considers her family. Several months later, the bonobos, who are very sexually active and use sexual encounters between opposite sex and same sex members to bond the group, surface in a TV show, Ape House, by the reality porn show king. The bonobos wake to find themselves in an empty house except for a computer and a stool. It doesn't take long for the apes to start ordering food, blankets, furniture, toys, etc. live streaming 24/7. John, who had his story stolen and given over to Cat by their editor quit and the only job he could find is at a tabloid that sends him out to the location of Ape House to report and write up sensationalist stories. Eventually he and Isabel reconnect and try to find a way to rescue the apes. I was almost to the end of the book and all these balls were up in the air and I thought no way is she going to resolve all this in the remaining pages but she did neatly in a page or two. This is the nuts and bolts but it's a great book/story with lots of entertaining characters and I do recommend it. But then I really liked Water For Elephants too.

Slade House by David Mitchell – Down a dark narrow hard to find alley in a working class neighborhood in London is, sometimes, a small black iron door. Not just anyone can find the door to Slade House and not just anyone who finds it can open it and those who can open it get invited inside. I don't know how much I want to say about this book as I really enjoyed it and don't want to say too much for future readers. These are small stories that are all linked to the iron door and build on one another. Every 9 years, it seems, one or more people go missing on the same day never to be seen or heard from again. Their experiences are different and the same all at the same time until it all reaches an unexpected conclusion with a little twist.

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell – I saw the movie before I read the book and while it was very pleasing visually, I had no idea what it was about. I just finished the book and I'm here to tell you I still don't know what it was about. Then I watched the trailer again...nope. The book is a series of 6 stories interrupted in the middle, sometimes mid-sentence (except for the sixth which is as complete as any of them). The next story starts after a jump forward in time. Small jumps and then large jumps until we get to the sixth so far forward in the future that mankind has fallen to it's knees and succumbing to savagery and from the end of that story we start going backwards picking up the previous stories in reverse order until we end with the last half of the first story. As far as I can tell, the only thing that connects them is a comet shaped birthmark, an occasional reference to the title, and in some cases a character from one appears in the next. Stories 1 – 4 do have some sort of continuity but are otherwise completely unrelated. Then a big jump in time for 5 and another big jump in time to the sixth. I did enjoy the book. The stories are well told but don't ask me what the book is about.


  1. That first series reminds me SO MUCH of one of the free Kindle books I read for book club. And that reminds me that I only read one or two of the books in the series. I think I didn't like the writing very much.

    I'll have to check out a couple of these. And I really should do a book review post - it's been AGES. I might just hit the highlights.

  2. Most look very worthy...but I have about 12 hard cover books on my bedside and 6 to be read on my Kindle. Are we not so lucky to be alive at this time with such great stuff to read?

  3. I've tried just one of your titles. Cloud Atlas was a very bad, miscast movie. In my opinion. I bought the book before the movie was filmed, and I could not finish the book or the movie. You review rather well. Thanks.


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